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A systemic analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Cyprus: Part I - An Overview

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The impacts from COVID-19, while felt around the world, have disproportionately affected minorities and those on the margins, including refugees, migrants and asylum seekers (RMAs).

Project Phoenix, in collaboration with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Justice Project, has recently completed Part I of a three-part systemic analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on RMAs in Cyprus. They are now in the midst of completing Part II, a detailed multi-city survey with RMAs, to gain further insight into the magnitude and personal effects of these impacts.

When the pandemic first began in March 2020, the Republic of Cyprus (RoC) government instituted emergency measures, including restrictions on freedom of movement, the closing of public institutions and facilities, as well as social distancing requirements in order to slow the spread of the virus.

The findings from Part I show that RMAs in the country have had limited access to official information on the COVID-19 pandemic and, as a result, suffered disproportionately during the lockdown period which severely restricted their movement.

The findings also show that, to date, the pandemic has resulted in a perceptible deterioration in quality of life of RMAs, with a discernible impact on personal freedoms, livelihoods and economic security, mental health, general wellbeing and personal development, despite the best efforts of local NGOs and civil society organisations.

There have been instances of arbitrary detention at overcrowded facilities in poor conditions, restrictions in access to healthcare and delays in receiving welfare benefits. In addition, many RMAs continue to remain on the margins of Cypriot society, experiencing long delays in migration procedures and claims, with limited legal recourse. Furthermore, women RMAs face the added burden of additional household and childcare responsibilities during the lockdown.

While there is limited information about the lockdown in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (“TRNC”), the effects of the pandemic were exacerbated when compared to those in the RoC, given the dire economic situation there.

Many of these impacts highlight already existing faults in the various systems that affect RMAs in Cyprus.
Civil society organizations in the country have done their best to try to fill in some of the gaps by providing aid and support. However, greater institutional change is needed to eradicate these systemic issues and to safeguard RMAs from experiencing a disproportionate impact going forward.

The report will shortly be released in Greek and German and will be launched at a live streamed event on November 12th, held at 1700 hours at the Home For Cooperation in the Buffer Zone in Nicosia. More about the event and accompanying panel discussion can be found here.

For more information, contact Hrishabh Sandilya at hrishabh@project-phoenix.eu